Often times when I'm coming off the lake and loading my scuba diving equipment and cameras into the car, fisherman will approach me at the boat landings to ask "Did you see any fish?" Or, "Where are all the big ones?" Since I'm actually under the water swimming with the fish, I do notice some things that escape most fisherman. So in answer to the question, "Where are the fish?" I've compiled a list of the five most surprising areas where I regularly encounter walleyes that few fisherman pay any attention to. How many of these locations do you completely ignore when targeting walleyes?
1) Shallow Water. Since I'm trying to photograph fish, I tend to concentrate on areas where the light is the best. This often means depths of 8 feet or less. This shallow water is where I take 90% of my walleye pictures. It's surprising how many fish can be found close to shore in water that's barely over your head. If there are large submerged trees close to shore, I almost always find walleyes there. Most walleye fisherman ignore shallow water, but I can tell you that the fish are there.
2) Under boat docks. Not all boat docks have walleyes under them, but the ones that share certain characteristics will hold walleyes most of the year. Nobody seems to fish for walleyes around shallow boat docks, but if you can find ones that have a hard or gravel substrate, extensive areas of shade, and deep water nearby, you'll find walleyes there.
3) Eurasian Watermilfoil. This invasive plant is almost universally regarded as bad, but fish love milfoil. If I'm on a lake where EWM is present, I head right for it. It's a fish magnet for all species including walleye. Sometimes I'll find walleye cruising along the deep edge of milfoil colonies, but usually they're buried inside the thickest and most dense parts of milfoil beds. It's hard to photograph walleyes in cover this thick and just as difficult to fish for them in these areas, but they're always there.
4) Fish Cribs. Everyone knows that there are fish around fish cribs, but they aren't as famously known to be places to find walleyes. The walleyes I see around cribs fall into two categories. Inactive fish are typically underneath the cribs, or buried deep inside them in thick brush. Active fish cruise cribs in a radius that can extend up to 20 feet. While it's easy for me to photograph them here, catching them here is harder because there's often an abundance of bass or panfish around that are higher in the water column that will strike the baits or lures before the walleyes get a chance to. In the presence of other fish, walleyes are timid and won't fight a rock bass or smallmouth to get to a bait first.
5) Sunny days. The last location where I always find walleyes isn't a location at all, but a condition. Walleyes have a reputation for avoiding bright sunshine, or going deep on sunny days. When I'm photographing fish, I relish bright sunny days with calm surface conditions and I'm usually in the water around high noon when the light penetration into the water is the best. You might think these would be terrible conditions for walleye fishing, but I can tell you I encounter plenty of large walleyes actively feeding during these times... often in shallower water. If you're a walleye fisherman and as a rule, avoid fishing during the midday hours or on bright sunny days, you're missing out on good opportunities to encounter fish.
For over twenty years I've been photographing walleyes underwater and those are some of my go-to places. They're certainly overlooked locations and might even seem counterintuitive to most walleye fisherman, but I wouldn't be wasting my own time with them if they weren't highly productive.
(To view our walleye image gallery, click here.)
(For more on walleye behavior click here.)